Union Minister Piyush Goyal (Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy in the Government of Bharat) exposed the double standards Of America/West over climate change in a conversation with Henny Sender, Chief Financial Correspondent, Financial Times, during a recent conference ‘Fulfilling India’s Potential: How Capital Markets Can Meet Financing Needs’ held in New Delhi.
Below is a transcript of the conversation –
Henny Sender: Speaking about clean energy…every year I go trekking in Himachal Pradesh. I see these very small scale hydro projects, and people say to me – there is inadequate water. Can you talk about climate change and how that affects the template going forward, and how concerned you are about these kind of issues?
Piyush Goyal: Well, I think everybody has seen this Government play a leadership role in the Paris negotiations. COP 21 was a defining moment in the world’s history and I think Bharat led the global effort to address this challenge from the front. So I can assure you all of us in Bharat are extremely concerned about the impact of climate change. In fact, I often tell my colleagues and the people of Bharat that its not as if climate change is going to affect only the rich economies. Of course, it will impact rich economies because you have more to lose than us – we already don’t have enough, so what we will lose will be much less. You have far greater to lose. But since we have very little, we have to protect what we have. So we are equally concerned about climate change. I am very concerned about my cities in the coastal regions.
I am extremely concerned about my workmen in factories, in the coal mines who need to be protected- their health needs to be protected. We have to ensure this country gradually moves out of inefficient mining, inefficient thermal plants, and we bring in clean coal technologies – more and more coal washing, coal washing, carbon capture. This Government, I can assure you , is investing big bucks in our R&D. So when ‘Mission Innovation’ was first flagged off to me by Secretary Moniz in Washington when I was having the energy dialgoue , I was delighted. Its great to see the world willing to work together on clean energy.
Having said that, my concern is that there is a lot of a gap between what is said by the West and what is being delivered by the West. There is no denying the fact that for the last 150 years, the West has enjoyed low cost fossil fuels and developed their economies. After all, most of the Western world survived on coal – your coal consumption in America was as much per capita 150 years ago, as Bharat is consuming in 2016…150 years later Bharat is consuming as much coal per person as USA consumed back then. Even today, with 1/4 th the population of Bharat, the United States consumes more than 2-2.5 time coal that we do.
Its not as if the ‘Inconvenient Truth’ came out very late – we knew this truth 50 years ago also. The NSW University in Australia started developing solar technologies 45 years ago. The impact and problem of climate change was first discovered in the 70s, around 45 years ago. I think, the reality is that the West waited till they found cheaper alternate sources of energy – till shale gas became affordable, the US Government kept talking about the ‘Inconvenient Truth’, while at the same time Bharat was doing ‘Convenient Action’. So that’s the difference between what the West has done, and what we are doing in Bharat.
I would urge the people of the United States to recognize that when you talk about the world’s two biggest challenges being terrorism and climate change, I think you need to go that extra mile to demonstrate your commitment. I appeal to the United States that when the negotiations are going on, we can keep renewable energy out of the WTO framework. After all, we decided in Singapore that no country would put import duties on renewable energy products/solar products. I don’t see any reason why the West could not show some magnanimity and keep renewables out of the WTO framework, particularly when Bharatiya manufacturers have shown such a large heart and withdrawn the anti-dumping duty request which had already ruled in their favor, and could have imposed huge anti-dumping duties on the US.
Today we found 16 programs in the US, state-run programs, where you protect your domestic industry in solar procurement. This double standard has to stop some day. I think it’s a sad story that when we talk of climate finance, for the last 7 years we have been talking about a $ 100 billion clean climate fund – not a dollar has been put on the table. Pledges are made, years are taken to even commit any money, more years are taken to finally put money on the table, and then sovereign guarantees are sought, large amount of conditionalities are put in. I think all this is demonstrating the real picture of the commitment of many parts of the West – not all are responsible, but many parts of the West rather than being the solution, are becoming the problem.